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    Celtics not expected to sign Coty Clarke

    Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Wednesday, March 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
    file/charles krupa/Associated press
    With injuries to several players lately, such as a high ankle sprain to Jae Crowder, the Celtics want to leave a roster spot open as the playoffs approach.

    PHOENIX — The Celtics are not expected to sign forward Coty Clarke for the remainder of the season after his second 10-day contract expires on Sunday, according to a league source.

    Entering Saturday night’s game against the Suns, Clarke, a 6-foot-7-inch forward, had played a total of six minutes over three games. He made both of his 3-point attempts and grabbed one rebound.

    Clarke spent the start of this season with the D-League’s Maine Red Claws before signing the first of two 10-day deals with Boston on March 7. If a team wishes to retain a player after consecutive 10-day deals, the player must be signed for the rest of the year.

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    The source said there was a chance the Celtics would eventually revisit a deal with Clarke, but for now they are leaning toward keeping a roster spot open as the playoffs approach so they will have the flexibility to fill a specific need if one is created by injury.

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    Players who were waived by other NBA teams after March 1 are not eligible to appear in the playoffs if they sign with another team this year. But players who were waived before that date, D-League players, or others returning from playing overseas would be able to take part in the playoffs if they sign now.

    The Celtics were healthy for much of this season, but they have been more fragile recently. Forward Jae Crowder is out with a high ankle sprain, forward Kelly Olynyk returned two weeks ago after missing 12 games with a sprained shoulder, forward Jonas Jerebko missed two games last weekend with a sore Achilles’ tendon, and guard Avery Bradley was hospitalized with flu symptoms on Thursday and Friday before flying to join the team here on Saturday.

    “I started feeling a little better,” Bradley said. “I just wanted to be here for my team. I wanted to compete.”

    Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Crowder would likely miss Monday’s game against the Clippers, and that his status later in the week would be considered day-to-day.

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    “It’s Jae and our doctors,” Stevens said. “Those are the only people that matter in that equation. They make those decisions. Once they give him the go-ahead structurally, he has to determine how much pain or discomfort he can handle or play with.”

    Late road trip

    This is an unusually late West Coast trip for the Celtics, who typically come here during February. They entered Saturday with just 10 games remaining, and five of them will be played during this jaunt.

    “I don’t know who made this schedule,” Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas said. “I don’t know who did that. But if you’re competitors, this is what you live for. We have a tough stretch of games . . . It’ll be tough, but we’ll be ready for everything.”

    “It’s a business trip,” guard Marcus Smart said. “That’s how we’re looking at it. We understand we’ve got to come out and play. We’re not saying we’re going to be perfect, but as long as we can put ourselves in a situation to win and do the right things, we’ll be OK.”

    While the timing of this trip might not be ideal, Stevens believes there are benefits to a week on the road together.

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    “We don’t have a lot of practice time, but it’s a lot of games together, it’s a lot of opportunities to meet together, spend time together, and then hopefully continue to build and grow,” Stevens said. “I thought we played better on Wednesday [against the Raptors] maybe than we have in a while, but we just have to continue to build and grow on that.”

    After facing the Suns, the Celtics will then play the Clippers, Trail Blazers, Warriors, and Lakers.

    Return uneventful

    Last season, the Suns traded Thomas to the Celtics just moments before the Feb. 19 deadline. Boston was in the midst of a West Coast trip then, so before Thomas played a game at TD Garden as a Celtic, he played a game in Phoenix against his former team.

    This year, the return to Arizona is less of a whirlwind for Thomas, who has settled in as the Celtics’ All-Star and settled into his Boston home.

    He signed a four-year deal with the Suns in the summer of 2014, and he said despite his short stay, Phoenix will always have a place in his heart.

    “The city is amazing and the people here treated me well,” Thomas said. “ Things happen, trades happen, but I’m glad to be back . . . Those teammates I had here, those are lifelong friends now. And then some of the coaching staff, the coaches behind the bench are still here and I still communicate with them, and also the trainers and the equipment guys.”